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They travel the globe helping disaster victims

Albert and Joanne Baumann area a neighborhood volunteer team who travel the U.S. to help people in need. As volunteers for the American Red Cross, this husband-and-wife team is part of the agency’s disaster relief team.

Albert and Joanne have helped victims of tornadoes, floods, mud slides, hurricanes and typhoons. Their volunteer work has taken them to Louisiana, Kentucky, California, Florida, Washington, Guam, the Caribbean and other places where disaster struck.

The American Red Cross was founded in 1893 to provide relief to victims of disasters and to help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. The Dallas chapter was chartered in 1912, and its services include disaster relief, safety programs, nursing and health programs, and youth volunteer and education programs.

Joanne, a registered nurse, first helped the Red Cross 15 years ago, working as a volunteer nurse at conventions and other special events in Dallas. Several years later, she decided the agency’s Disaster Services program was where she and her husband belonged.

For eight years, the two have been helping disaster victims recover physically and financially. Joanne, 65, provides medical assistance, and Albert, 68 and a retired mechanical engineer, works with damage assessment and building repair.

When a disaster occurs, Albert and Joanne are called to the location immediately. Joanne is responsible for coordinating health services, including replacing medication for victims, visiting hospital patients, coordinating the efforts of other health services volunteers, and providing counseling for victims.

“It’s really crisis intervention,” Joanne says. “Losing a home is a lot like losing a member of your family.”

As a member of the Damage Assessment team, Albert surveys the disaster area, determining the number of houses that are damaged and how much damage has occurred.

After making the initial inspection, Albert also is a part of the building repair volunteer team. He and other volunteers make a second inspection of houses to determine cost estimates for repairs, the number of hours involved and the materials needed.

Several years ago, Albert and other Red Cross volunteers rebuilt almost an entire West Texas town after it was destroyed by a tornado.

“We built 40 homes from the ground up, and repaired another 90 homes,” he says.

Joanne says the volunteers stay at a disaster location for three to six weeks, depending on the needs of the community. She and her husband help with national relief efforts an average of three times each year.

“When a weather report comes on, and the weatherman talks about a tornado warning, I immediately ask myself if I need to wash any clothes,” Joanne says.

In addition, the two participate in local relief efforts, assisting tornado, flood and fire victims. Albert and Joanne coordinated much of the volunteer effort after this spring’s tornado in Wylie.

“They are two of our most seasoned volunteers,” says Richard Durham, director of disaster services.

“They are dependable, knowledgeable and willing to fulfill leadership roles in Red Cross disaster relief operations locally as well as nationally.”

Their volunteer work cannot be called easy, but Albert and Joanne say they enjoy it.

“We could sit home and get old or we can keep busy,” Joanne says.

“We can’t afford to give money to every worthy cause, but we can give some of our time,” Albert says.

Because the Red Cross offers so many services, the need for volunteers is great and varied. Among the available opportunities are:

  • Helping fire victims. Volunteers are needed to provide disaster relief to victims of local residence fires. Weekday, week night or weekend on-call schedules are available. Training is provided all year.
  • Brightening someone’s hospital stay. Use your creative talents to knit, sew and crochet items for patients. Volunteers can make finger puppets, layettes for newborns, wheelchair caddies for the elderly and happy-face pillows for children. Materials and patterns are provided.
  • Sharing through teaching. Volunteers are needed to teach KidCare classes to young baby-sitters and first aid/CPR classes to adults and children. Young professionals can join the Red Cross “Friends” and help the agency with volunteer development and education.

If you are interested in volunteering with the Red Cross, call the Volunteer Center at 826-6767.

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